AFL Round 21 – North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: September dance

North Melbourne versus Western Bulldogs

1.10pm, Sunday, 17 August

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

The equation is pretty straight forward. Win today and North will almost certainly earn an invite to the September dance. Lose, and they’ll be back in the pack, lurking desperately on the edges of the dance floor, hoping to receive a late smile or nod, like my mates and I at the Warrnambool Youth Centre Disco back in the mid-80s.

Unfortunately, I’m not at the Dungeon today doing my bit for the cause, as I’ve heeded doctor’s advice to avoid all excitement, stress and frustration for a while. As these are emotions I regularly feel on a minute to minute basis when watching North play, it’s an obvious, albeit difficult decision to make.

In order to gain my footy fix, I’ve thrown on a few extra layers of clothing, inserted the headphones and walked the two blocks to the Coburg City Oval to watch the Burgers take on Frankston*.

As I take my seat in the old grandstand amongst a small and good-natured crowd, I consider this a game North should win convincingly. Wells and Levi are good ins, however I’m worried it may be too early for the former. Another run in the VFL would do Wellsy good. For the Dogs, the second half of the season has been encouraging and they look like a club building towards next year. (If only they could find a big forward.) They often trouble North and with Griffin playing his 200th, I can’t help but be just a little bit worried.

North dominates the first quarter. Goldy jumps all over Minson, possibly to remind him who was the best ruckman in 2013. Thommo captures his all-Australian form; Boomer gives Picken the slip; Black and Brown kick goals. The Dogs aren’t in the contest and North leads by 26 points, which has my stress levels healthy.

But this is North we’re talking about.

The Dogs increase pressure, force turnovers and win clearances during the second term. Bontompelli, the lad with a name like Italian chocolate, is all style, creating play and kicking two goals. Cooney’s name pops up and Boyd sinks a telling set shot from the 50. North can’t clear from defence – a problem all year – and is in danger of coughing up the lead before half-time, until two late goals, one to Drew after an embarrassing dive results in a free and plenty of jeers and criticism down the radio. The lead is a shaky 14 points at the main break and I’m considering switching off if this gets any tighter.

Brad Scott has delivered a few handy half-time sprays this season and it appears today is another. North starts the third term like it did the first and before long the lead is over five goals again. Poise and resolve, qualities often lacking by North when under pressure, are demonstrated, with Boomer, Jack and Gibson leading the way. The Dogs’ pressure drops away quickly and they lose possession regularly. The margin narrows to 24 points but this contest is effectively over by three-quarter time.

Any chances of a Bulldogs’ fight back and North choke are squashed when Goldy grabs out of the ruck and snaps from the goal square. Pleasingly, North maintains the intensity until the end and the lead blows out to a pleasing 50 points thanks to four final term goals from Cunnington who appears to have played up forward for most of the match.

All up it’s been a good day, with a solid challenge repelled and another promising performance from Brown, however knee injuries to Jack and Lindsay and Wells’ shoulder charge to Higgins’ jaw will cause concern during the week**.

I arrive home to find Eloise happily hyponitized by The Wiggles, and with dark clouds moving in, I take the washing off the line and ponder all things North Melbourne. The Elimination Final debacle of 2012 and last year’s fade outs hurt a lot, while also exposing ingrained cultural problems. During 2014, the inconsistency in performance and stagnancy in some careers have been frustrating, and occasional grumblings over the coach can still be heard. However, there’s plenty to be happy about, including good wins over top teams and the emergence of a few young players. Serious watchers can see progress at North.

Barring a catastrophe, North is finals-bound and that’s a bloody good effort considering the dramas and the undeniable fact we are a small club in a big pond. It’s time to polish the dancing shoes and run the 80s style gel through the hair.

*Burgers had a good win.

**Have just heard about Boomer. Shit!!



  1. Neil Anderson says

    Nice analogy about hoping to score one last dance at the end of the night and seeing your team confirm their spot in the finals.
    I thought the Bulldogs would have gone close to winning but like a couple of other teams, they looked exhausted after a long season. I don’t know how players like ‘Chocolate’ Bontempelli can keep playing so well at this time of year.
    I notice they rested McCrae and Redpath for those very reasons.
    Now your stress levels will really take a hit as the Roos face their first finals challenge. Bulldog supporters can at least relax for the next six months and see if we can find that elusive tall forward that everyone says we need.

  2. Love your optimism, mate.
    Biggest concern for me (as mentioned by you): our inability to put the brakes on an opposition who have grabbed the momentum. They just have no idea how to clear the back line to get some clean air.

  3. So the dramas continue eh Starkie?

    Will be doing well to get over Adelaide but surely a Melbourne final beckons.

    Pick Boomer for week 2 of finals or leave him out for disciplinary reasons?

  4. Yes the Burgers had a terrific win and what a great game it was to watch, but bloody hell, it was cold watching from the terraces.

  5. Matt Watson says

    I was digging horse manure in my veggie patch and listening on my phone.
    It was warm and sunny in Brisbane.
    In the second half, with each new scoop of manure, North buried the Bulldogs.
    The commentators talked at length about Harvey and Wells.
    We’ve since seen what happened.
    Harvey is a grumpy old man.
    I pushed over the shovel in disgust.
    And opened another steaming bag of poo…

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